Spiritually reuniting Logan’s pioneer couple

By Dwight Williamson

This was originally published in the Logan Banner on July 30, 2014 and is republished here with the author’s permission and our special thanks.

Anthony Lawson 1788-1849A Logan Banner story which appeared April 23 of this year concerning the historic cemetery located on High Street in Logan featured the grave site of one of the town’s earliest citizens who was brutally murdered by two of her own slaves in 1847 when the small village was known as Lawnsville. Logan County itself had only been created 23 years earlier and its boundaries extended much farther than today.

Ann Lawson’s grave is surrounded by a black iron rod fence which has withstood the test of time just as her family had undoubtedly wished. It is the oldest known grave in the cemetery and its historical significance is invaluable. Among other things, it proves that at least 14 years before the outbreak of the Civil War, some Logan citizens owned slaves. Since the town, which was also called Logan Court House at the time, was sparsely populated it is unlikely there were many other slaves utilized. From all accounts handed down for generations, the black person(s) allegedly responsible for Lawson’s death at her age of sixty-four, were hanged even before there was a courthouse for any possible trial which would not have been likely any how.

Inscribed on her tombstone are these words: “Ann Lawson, wife of Anthony Lawson, of Logan County, Va., who was born in the parish of Longhorsby in the county of Northumberland, England on the 17th day of March A.D. 1783 Murdered on the night of the 17th of December, 1847 by two of her own slaves.”

Mrs. Lawson was the wife of Anthony Lawson and the mother of four sons and one daughter. She was murdered eight day s before Christmas. Her pioneering husband was the first person to open a trading post in the village and his home was located where Logan City Hall currently operates. It has been incorrectly reported for generations that Mr. Lawson died in 1 84 6 while returning by riv er from Philadelphia where he had taken goods, including furs and ginseng, to sell and trade. Lawson developed cholera, a bacterial infection of the small intestines, of which at the time there was no anti-bacterial medications. He is buried in a historic cemetery in the community of Guyandotte in Cabell County near the very river which he had so often navigated.

Originally , it was only believed that Mr. Lawson was probably buried in that area because of the mere fact that he is not located near his wife in the local cemetery which is part of property which he owned. Thanks to the difficult and time consuming work of genealogist and historian, the late Eldean Wellman, this writer is now able to report the names of seventy-two persons buried in what Wellman described as the “Old Logan Cemetery.” Annette Browning, who her husband Don describes as quite an enthusiastic genealogical researcher herself, supplied this writer with a copy of Wellman’s works. It prompted this writer to finding the actual gravesite of Anthony Lawson. It also led to some surprises.

First, as his tombstone so distinctly displays, he succumbed to his illness in 1849, not 1846, as so many historians have previously reported. Lawson would have been 70 years old at the time of his demise and surely was not traveling alone. It is possible that one or more of his four sons — John, Lewis, James or Anthony — could have been traveling with him and was there to at least comfort his ailing soul. His corrected death date also means he was living when his wife was murdered.

Determined to at least spiritually reunite one of Logan County’s historical spouses, I set out one Saturday for Cabell County in hopes of finding his grave. Having gone to college at Marshall, I was familiar with the area. Guyandotte, once a larger community than Huntington was, is not now somewhere one wants to venture to at night. As my wife and I crossed the bridge to the town during day light hours, the first thing noticeable on the left was a cemetery. Beside the cemetery was an old house which turned out to have been  listed on the National Register of Historic Places, June 1973. I hoped to locate the
gravesite at this location.

As a member of “Find a Grave’s” website I located the names of many of those buried in the Guyandotte Cemetery. In addition, there was a picture which had been added by somebody named Phillip Conley. The photo showed the same type of iron fence as was placed at his grave. A quick viewing of the rather small graveyard did not reveal an iron fenced gravesite.

After at least thirty minutes, having traversed every road in the community and even asking locals the whereabouts of cemeteries, I became frustrated. Before leaving I at least wanted to find out the story behind the historical house and look at some of the Revolutionary War gravesites. A plaque near the  house explained the site. The house had been transported by flatboat from Gallipolis, Ohio in 1810. It was named the Historic Madie Carroll House because of an incident that occurred early in the Civil War.

Because of political sympathies toward the Confederacy, Union troops on November 11, 1861 burned nearly every house and structure in Guyandotte. Mary Madie Carroll, operating what was licensed as a “house of private entertainment” by her late husband, Thomas, barricaded herself and children in the brick kitchen of the house and refused to leave. The soldiers spared the house but burned the nearby barn.

I wandered into the cemetery which held much older graves than was the age of the historical house beside it. The tombstones were old, but well preserved, and the cemetery, which was fenced, appeared well kept. The grass had recently been mowed. There were no trees at the site. However, in a far corner of the cemetery, just as I prepared to turn my back and depart, I spotted what appeared to be a bush growing where there should be none. Suddenly, as I walked closer, I realized the black iron fence the weeds had been hiding all along, was indeed protecting the grave of Anthony Lawson. His tombstone was made exactly the same as his wife’s. Inscribed at the top were the dates of 1788 and 1849. Below the dates of his birth and death were these words: “SACRED to the memory of Anthony Lawson Sr. of Logan County, Virginia, who was born at Stanton Co, of Northumberland England on the 31 day of October who on his return home from P”…… The stone has been broken on the lower right side where the last three lines of text used to read “who on his return from Philadelphia departed this life at Guyandotte.”

One can only wonder as to why the keepers of the cemetery and historic house nearby would allow this one grave to become so over grown with vegetation. Is it because Lawson is from Logan and there are those that think his descendants should be doing the work? To my knowledge there are no descendants in Logan County. And the reason I know is as simple as this:

If there were any descendants remaining in Logan County, I do not believe the nearly one-acre cemetery here, which Lawson originally owned and which has held his beloved and murdered wife for 167 years, would be in the condition it is in. The Logan cemetery holds the remains of several Civil War veterans, including at least two members of the infamous Logan Wildcats who fought for the Confederacy, and one’s wife who helped sew the Wildcat Flag that the unit fought under.

At least the Lawson’s of Logan County are back together again…if only in the spiritual sense.

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

You may also enjoy this related article: The historic cemetery in Logan

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“Boots” was anything but a normal coal miner

By Dwight Williamson

Dwight Williamson, Logan County MagistrateThousands of men have since about 1900 risked their lives bringing coal from the mountainous hollows of Logan County. There have been hundreds of coal mine related deaths and thousands of injuries, including broken backs and lost limbs — all for the sake of producing coal. Now, with coal mining much safer, and with better laws designed to help protect the coal miners, there appears to be little need for men who desire to continue a local time honored tradition. However, there certainly was a time when coal miners were wanted, and it led to the makeup of what we now know as our beloved Logan County. Italians, Hungarians, Russians, Polish and Negros, mixed in with many other nationalities, have over the years blended together to create our potpourri of a county. Nearly all of our families came to the area many years ago seeking employment in or around the coal mines. The following account is just one of numerous true stories that relate to local times of the past.

William Grimmett, described in a 1939 Logan Banner story as a Negro, was a coal miner who lived at Omar and worked at the No. 4 mine of West Virginia Coal and Coke Corporation. Grimmett, known as “Boots” by his Island Creek friends, was 48 years old and had been working in the mines since 1923, according to the Banner report. While this information would seem about normal for a coal miner in 1939, “Boots” was anything but a normal coal miner. You see, “Boots” Grimmett had no legs and got around by means of two 36-inch crutches. Still, he had made his living through physical labor since he was a young man. In the mines, he loaded coal, run a motor, cleaned track and done other jobs required at the time. Employees at the No. 4 mine marveled at how he could get in and out of the large mine cars at the mine.

“Boots” hailed from Warrior, Alabama, where when he was four years old he lost his legs when a train struck him. “When we got into war in 1917, I was the first man to be examined for service in Warrior and the doctors pronounced me perfect physically, except for the fact that I had my legs off,” he explained. Standing at four feet and four inches tall, Boots said, “I would have been a big man if I hadn’t lost my legs.” His right leg was off above the knee, and his left was off half-way between the foot and the knee. Scoffing at those who would pity him because of his handicap, he said, “People just don’t know how little they use their legs. Just think it over and you will find the only persons who make their living with theirs are dancers.”

In the mines he placed what was left of his left foot on the rail, and with the crutches, he reportedly could walk as fast as any man. When he wanted to get into a mine car, he swung his body in the air by means of his powerful arms, and pulled himself over the edge. He always enjoyed steady work and was considered a good, reliable worker by employers. His favorite hobby was boxing and the great Joe Louis was his favorite. “Boots” said that when the “Brown Bomber” boxed, he would get a ride to Logan and place his money on Louis. “Every time he fights, he has some of my money on him,” he proudly said.

Perhaps a good example of “Boots” Grimmett’s outlook on life can be explained in a favorite story in which “Boots’ passed a one-armed beggar, tin cup in hand, who was standing on the company store porch at Omar. “Boots” dropped a half dollar in the cup and then remarked: “Poor man, it sure must be tough to be crippled.”

Feel free to make up your own moral for the William “Boots” Grimmett story. As for myself, I don’t believe I’ll be complaining about my arthritic knee anymore — thanks to a long gone coal miner named “Boots.”

ANOTHER PIECE OF COAL HISTORY

It has long been thought and even written that the first train load of coal was shipped from Logan County in 1904. The fact is, in the summer of 1903 when the railroad was still in the process of being constructed to the town of Logan, a Stone Branch mine just above Big Creek produced the first coal that was hauled on a work train to the Ohio River. The train was returning from having hauled supplies for workers who were completing the railroad track to Logan. The coal fired train always stopped on its return trip at Big Creek to take on water. According to George E. Chapman, who was a janitor at the Logan courthouse in the late 1930’s, he drove the span of mules which hauled the coal to the railroad cars.

Chapman said that he didn’t believe that Stone Branch Mine was the first to mine commercial coal in the county. He said that mines at both Holden and Mt. Gay had been mining coal and stockpiling it until the railroad reached them, which occurred in 1904. The equipment for the mine at Holden came in over the mountain from Dingess, which had become a busy and significant place because the railroad had already reached there. In fact, before the railroad reached Logan, local merchants ordered goods for their stores and brought them by horse or mules from Dingess to Logan.

“In those days,” said Chapman, “mules were used exclusively for haulage, and oil lamps, burning lard oil, furnished illumination. Day wages at the time was $1.50 and miners were paid $1 per foot but the mine openings had to be driven nine feet wide with a pick, and black powder was for blasting. A wooden track was used instead of iron, according to Chapman’s account.

Jeff Workman, a janitor at the local high school back then, was quoted as saying: “Our tipple wasn’t more than a chute to transfer the coal to the bottom of the hill and a bin that held a small amount of coal. We didn’t have any screens or crushers. We only produced run-of-the mine coal.”

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

*Published with permission.

 

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Cherry Tree in the news

This is a collection of newspaper clippings about Cherry Tree and some of its residents. Most are from the collection of Kayte Atkins, mother of Doris Atkins Branch and Eddie Atkins.

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The Civil War in Logan County

By Dwight Williamson

Dwight Williamson, Logan County MagistrateAlthough during the Civil War Logan Countians were predominantly southern sympathizers, there were those persons of the area who actually believed in the northern cause and enlisted with the northern forces. The names of people like James A. Nighbert, John William Stratton, Henry Clay Ragland, and certainly, Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield, are familiar as participants in the War Between the States, and for fighting for the old Confederacy. James Hinchman, whose grandfather (William Hinchman) settled the area of Rich Creek in Logan County when the entire area was wilderness in about 1808, fought for the Union and was a Captain for the Northern forces.

During the Civil War, neither Northern nor Southern armies occupied the county regularly, but several visits were made by different commands, and guerilla raids were not infrequent by either side. Of course, the Logan Courthouse was burned by Northern forces in 1862 after they were fired upon from across the Guyandotte River as they moved from Chapmanville to Logan. While some of these encounters have been handed down by word of mouth over the many years, others have been recorded militarily; yet, even more have been lost in time. One story, which thankfully has not been lost, was told by George R. Hinchman in The Logan Banner back in 1933. The incident took place at what is now the community of Taplin; a place which was called Henry’s Branch at the time of the Civil War.

A band of Southern guerilla forces stopped at a home occupied by the McCasson family at Henry’s Branch. The leader of the band of guerilla forces was Dave Walker, who announced his intentions of taking the McCasson family’s finest horse as the group prepared to leave. When the owner protested, according to The Banner account, “he was beaten with a gun butt and killed.” The wife and a daughter also were dreadfully beaten causing the daughter to become insane. The news soon spread and a posse of neighbors, consisting of both Northern and Southern sympathizers, set out in pursuit of the murdering band. They overtook them on Huff Creek and brought them back to the scene of the crimes.

After his guilt was established beyond reasonable question, and it was determined that the other men had at least mildly protested Dave Walker’s actions, it was decided—without lawyers, a judge or jury—that Walker was to be hanged. He was forced to mount the horse he had stolen, which was then led beneath a sycamore tree. Tobias Riddle climbed the sycamore with a rope which he tied around a limb. The other end of the rope was fastened around the murder’s neck, and the horse was led from under him. The Banner reported that, “Nobody was masked and no participant denied his acts, but everybody was convinced that only simple justice had been done, and no one was ever arrested.” Walker was buried near the river on property at Rich Creek owned by Oliver Perry.

The remaining men that came with Walker were allowed to leave unharmed. It is interesting to note that the name of Rich Creek came about because of the millions of passenger pigeons that had for many years roosted at the mouth of the hollow. The birds’ droppings contributed to the rich, dark soil that proved valuable in farming the area. It was said that the birds darkened the air as they flew, and were so much in each other’s way in flying that many collisions caused them to fall to the ground, while thousands of others “were knocked down with sticks.” The largest roosting area for passenger pigeons, however, was said to be at Copperas Fork of Island Creek at what later became the community of Holden.

Although America once was filled with multi-millions of passenger pigeons, it has long been a mystery as to their sudden disappearance. Some scientists theorized that a great storm may have overtaken them in their migration to South America, while others hazard to guess that they all died of some contagious disease. Either way, the birds, like the story behind the hanging of Dave Walker, are now just a part of our local history.

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

*Published with permission.

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English credited with discovering coal in Logan Co.

By Dwight Williamson

Logan Historic Marker

This historic highway marker is located near the intersection of Holland Lane and Main Street.

There have been many notable figures who have made their homes in what is now Logan County. One such person that few people are aware of is a man who came from his native Philadelphia in 1852 to settle along the Guyandotte River to what was then sparsely settled western Virginia in what we now claim as the town of Logan. There is no record as to why this man made the long trek from the comforts of Pennsylvania to this rugged area, or as to why he left five years later, but allow me to shed some historical light on the gentleman who gave the small village the name of Aracoma and even persuaded authorities in Wyoming County to change the name of Cassville (formed in 1850) to what is still known today as Oceana.

For those who do not know, Oceana was the youngest daughter of legendary Indian Chief Cornstalk and Aracoma was his eldest daughter. Aracoma, of course, was a Princess who lived on “the islands” from 1765 with her white husband, Boling Baker, until 1765, when she died after being wounded during a battle between her tribe and white settlers from the Greenbrier Valley.

Thomas Dunn English was a physician, lawyer, journalist, prolific author — and he would become the first mayor of the town he got named as Aracoma, where he served from 1852 until 1857. In addition, he also served as assistant postmaster of the village that would in 1907 be rechristened as the town of Logan, yet another Indian name of legend.

Credit for discovering coal in Logan County is given Dr. English as records show he recorded 27 separate tracts of coal land during his residence in the county. Unable to transport the coal, English never profited and it would be some 50 years after his departure that the commercial mining of coal would begin to transform a sleepy little town into a hot bed of productivity, sin and corruption..

English had the reputation of being an eccentric, according to a 1942 account published in the Logan News, which was a rival publication of the The Logan Banner newspaper. The story said English had been in the habit of taking solitary walks along the banks of the Guyandotte and especially enjoyed admiring the skill of the lumberjacks who rode the rafts of logs that were floated down the river on their way to market. At the time, timbering was the only industry in the county. Those river bank excursions probably led to his writing of two poems during his stay in the area, especially the one titled “Rafting on the Guyandotte.”

The second poem was titled “Found Dead in Bed.” It was a story about a boy named Benny, who was said to be the son of a Mrs. Toney of Big Creek. The poem says that the mother had ”whipped” her son because he had allowed a traveling tattoo artist to tattoo a figure on one of his arms. His excuse that he wanted to be a sailor and that all sailors had tattoos did not fare well with the mother.

Thirty-one years after the boy left home a man about 40 years-old knocked on the door of the widow’s home one evening and asked if he might spend the night. The woman admitted the stranger, fed him and gave him the bed in the spare room. The next day he was found dead in bed.

After the coroner had completed his duties and the body had been prepared for burial, the widow by some strange impulse, pushed up the sleeve on one of the stranger’s arms and saw tattoo marks that identified the body as that of her son.

When Dr. English came to these parts he had been writing for newspapers, dividing his work mostly between New York and Washington. He also had written several books of considerable interest including his most famous one titled “Ben Bolt.” So why would such a person travel all the way to these rugged hills to settle? Perhaps we shall never really know, but the following information may indicate that English wished to get as far away as he could from a literary great that all readers should identify with — Edgar Allan Poe.

The two men became the most bitter of enemies in 1846, a feud which culminated in Poe’s successful libel lawsuit against English. The author of the famous poem titled “The Raven,” Poe described English as “a bullet-headed and malicious villain.” The two writers remained enemies for all of their lives. In 1896, long after English had left his home on the Guyandotte, he published his “Reminiscences of Poe” in which he depicted the famous writer as a “drunken, deceitful jerk”, who he suggested was virtually run out of Philadelphia in 1844 for reasons too scandalous for a gentleman such as himself to reveal. His writing revealed that he was a “near-constant companion and confidante” of Poe prior to the hatred that arose between the two talented men.

As a result of Poe’s libel suit, a New York City court ruled that English was “an unmitigated liar.” That embarrassment alone could have been the reason English sought the solace of the western and undeveloped frontier of what is now Logan County. The solitude of the mountains and beauty of the Guyandotte surely allowed him to escape from the rigors of the big cities of that time. Here, perhaps, English was able to gather his thoughts and clear his head from the literary pollution of New York, Washington and Philadelphia.

Though English wrote many poems and stories, in his 1843 publication of “The Doom of the Drinkers” the main character of the book was described as a “brilliant writer,” who was also a drunk and was the “very incarnation of treachery and falsehood.” The character, it was said, was intended to be a “cruel Poe caricature.”

After his five years in what is now Logan, a renewed Dr. English left West Virginia and reverted to journalism for a while, but then became active in politics, a taste for which may have been developed by his experiences in his Aracoma setting. As West Virginia was becoming a state in 1863, English became a member of the New Jersey State Assembly and from 1891 until 1895 he served in Congress. He died in 1902 at the age of 83 years.

With the exception of “Ben Bolt,” his literary labors seem to have possessed little of lasting value, but he surely left his mark in Logan; though we are left to ponder as to why a man of his stature would make these hills his home in the pre-civil war era. Still, one has to find it of interest that a guy who came 523 miles from Philadelphia to these Appalachians named two towns in honoring a noted Indian chief’s family. Though the town of Aracoma is now Logan, the unincorporated community just outside the town still bears her name, as did the famed Aracoma Hotel that once stood in Logan where an Indian graveyard was discovered during the hotel’s construction.

The versatile writings of Thomas Dunn English included poetry, historical and political works, fiction, ballads, lyrics,, fairy stories, biography, songs and at least 20 plays that were staged in New York.

Dunn obviously loved this state’s rivers and spent some time in the town of Gauley Bridge as a West Virginia historical highway marker there says that he wrote the ballad titled “Gauley River.” Another historical highway marker depicting him as mayor in 1852 can be seen near the Holland Lane intersection of Logan on Main Street.

Logan County has always been a place of great historical interest. However, I’m fairly certain that the literary giant, Edgar Allan Poe, never lived in these hills. And that, I’m sure, was just fine with our author of “Rafting on the Guyandotte.”

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

*Published with the author’s permission.

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Logan Co. people with national interest

By Dwight Williamson

Dwight WilliamsonThe events that formulate the subject matter of history have proven bountiful in Logan County. From times past when Aracoma and other Indians roamed our hills and valleys until the present day huge success of the million-to-one shot, Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., there is tremendous history that involves people and places in our mountainous domain. Some history, like “The Battle of Blair Mountain” and the “Hatfield and McCoy Feud,” have for years drawn national interest. Here are a few other interesting things some readers may not know, or could have simply forgotten.

Multi-millionaire James “Buck” Harless was born at Taplin in Logan County in 1919, although he was more widely known as a Gilbert resident. Buck, who died Jan. 1, 2014 at the age of 94, was a huge contributor to WVU and Marshall Universities, as well as numerous other beneficial causes.

Joanne Dru, whose real name was Joan Letitia LaCock, was born in Logan in 1922, and was a renowned actress who appeared in such then popular movies as “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”, “All the King’s Men,” “Red River” “The Pride of St. Louis,” and several other movies of the 1940’s and 50’s. She was the elder sister of Peter Marshall, who some may recall as the original host of the American game show “Hollywood Squares.” She died in Beverly Hills, Ca. in 1966. Local theaters were always filled when the former Loganite was featured in a movie anywhere in this county.

Another person born in Logan, Lea Ann Parsley, made it big by becoming the United States’ first female to win a world cup medal in skeleton skiing. She won the silver medal during the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games. Parsley is a direct descendant of the McCoy clan that was involved in the famous feud.

Many talented singers and musicians came from Logan County, including the likes of Dick Justice and Arnold and Ervin Williamson, better known as the Williamson Brothers. The brothers recorded several songs in the 1920’s, and their version of “Gonna Die With a Hammer in My Hand” (a song about John Henry the steel driver), was reported as being the most popular version ever recorded. The brothers were inspired by another native Logan Countian born in 1891, Frank Hutchinson. Hutchinson is considered to be the first white rural guitarist to record blues music. A Logan coal miner before and after his music career, Hutchinson later served as the postmaster at Lake. He, along with Loganite Sherman Lawson, a fiddler, recorded numerous songs between 1926 and 1929. Hutchinson was best known as a slide guitar player. One of his songs was titled “Logan County Blues.” He and his family reportedly lived above a store at Lake, and when the store burned down, they lost everything. He developed alcohol problems and worked on the Ohio River as a riverboat entertainer, dying of liver disease in a Dayton, Ohio hospital in 1945.

The most interesting musician to hail from Logan County was James Edward “Ed” Haley, who was born and raised at Trace Fork of Harts in 1885. Haley, who played fiddle, banjo, mandolin and piano, was blind. There is an interesting history involving Haley that has been written by local historian Brandon Ray Kirk; but, for now, I’ll be content in describing Haley as simply amazing. He married a blind piano teacher in 1918 that played mandolin and accordion. Ed was one of the best known fiddlers in the Appalachian region and traveled widely through this area performing at dances, fairs, fiddle contests and other events. Another musical talent from Logan County was Bo Ratliff, known as a rockabilly and country music singer during the 1950’sand 60’s. He was still performing gospel music with three of his daughters and two granddaughters just a few years ago. James Richard “Bo” Ratliff was born here in 1933.

From the Civil War on, Logan County has produced numerous military heroes. Old Logan Banners are filled with stories of heroic efforts of county residents, particularly during World War I and II. However, two Army sergeants— both of whom saved the lives of their men in Vietnam by falling on grenades that would have injured or killed men in their units— included Ted Belcher of Accoville, who died in 1966, and Frankie Molnar of Logan, who perished in 1967. Both received this nation’s highest military decoration—the Medal of Honor.

When it comes to sports, there’s Albert “Max” Butcher, who was born at Holden in 1910 and died at Man in 1957. Butcher was a major league pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates. Max in 1941 went 17-12 with the Pirates that also included 19 complete games, something unheard of in today’s baseball era.

What about a guy who only stood 5-11 and weighed 175 pounds, but averaged 29.1 per basketball game for Marshall University in the early 1950’s? Walt Walowac, the son of a coal miner here, held the record for scoring at MU for 30 years. He was chosen as the 29th overall pick by the then Milwaukee Hawks in the 1954 NBA draft. Of course, there was Buffalo Creek’s Charlie Cowan, who played 15 seasons (from 1961 to 1975) as a starting offensive lineman for the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL. Cowan, who was named to three Pro Bowl squads, participated in the league playoffs five seasons. He died in Los Angeles in 1998.

Crawley Creek’s Shane Burton also played professional football. The Chapmanville product was a member of the Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, and the Carolina Panthers. After moving to North Carolina with his family, Burton graduated from high school there in 1992 and played college football at the University of Tennessee. He finished his eight-year NFL career with 146 tackles, 18 sacks, and three interceptions.

While on the subject of pro football, what about James “Bus” Cook? Born and raised at Man, Cook is an NFL sports agent, who has represented the likes of Brett Farve, Randy Moss, Jay Cutler, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Calvin Johnson, and numerous other big name players. I met Cook and Brett Farve several years back, when Cook brought him to Man and they were golfing at the now abandoned Triadelphia Country Club.

Speaking of golf, another fellow who hailed from Man was Archie Weldon “Buddy” Cook. Cook became a professional golfer and played on the PGA tour during the 1950’s and the Senior Tour in the 1980’s. Cook, who was the club pro at the Greenbrier from 1958 until 1972, won the West Virginia Open in 1985 at the age of 59.

There is no doubt that there are numerous other unheralded Logan Countians who have made their marks in different professions, including the business arena. And there are lesser individuals who should be mentioned— people like M.C. Charlie Byles from Logan who is credited with in the early 1930’s creating the heirloom tomato plant known as the “mortgage lifter”—named so because monies made from the sale of the seed and plants helped ole’ Charlie pay off the mortgage on his Depression era home. The plants will grow nine feet high and produce tomatoes that weigh as much as two pounds each. I grew them for years before realizing their local history.

And, how about this little known military fact: Harry D. Jeffries of Taplin had the distinction at the age of 14 as being the youngest person to enlist in the Army during World War I. The Logan boy ran away from home and went to Tennessee where there he lied when he gave his age as 17. Luckily, for Jeffries, the war came to an end just a few days after he had joined and became a member of the 23rd infantry unit.

Two people who by all means deserve recognition for their services—I’m proud to say— were friends of mine. Both the late Bill Abraham and Dan Dahill, among many other achievements, were fighter pilots during World War II. I’ve sat with both on different occasions and listened intently to their interesting stories. They have to be classified as military heroes. Bill has the Logan Bridge appropriately named for him, while Dahill should have something named for him, at least in my opinion. After all, Dahill, who left us at the age of 93 in 2013, graduated and from Notre Dame University, got a law degree from WVU, and in the 1950’s served in our state’s House of Delegates. During the early 1960’s, he was our State Senator. Much later, he also was an assistant Logan County Prosecuting Attorney. Another outstanding sports representative from Logan County is Buffalo Creek’s Chris Harvey, who was a three-year star and all-stater at Man High before 1999 walking on at the University of Miami, Florida where he excelled as a long snapper at center, executing flawlessly 18 field goal attempts, 50 punts and 58 extra point conversions kicks while being named as the team’s most valuable walk-on player as a freshman. Harvey has the distinction of having played on what sports historians describe as “one of the greatest college football teams in history” that in 2002 won the National Championship by thrashing Nebraska 37-14 in the title game. The Hurricanes finished 12-0, and followed that up by losing the championship in 2003 in a controversial game against Ohio State. Harvey, no doubt, does not regret turning down offers from WVU, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. After all, the former Hillbillie who now is head grid coach at a Clearwater, Fl. private high school that was 12-1 last year, appeared in the Orange, Fiesta, Sugar and Rose Bowls during his college days. Only former Miami players can make that statement. When thinking of achievements, we must also salute the magical talents of Logan’s Michael Ammar, who is recognized as one of the world’s greatest magicians. Among his many honors is having appeared on Johnny’s Carson’s “The Tonight Show”, The Merv Griffin Show, CNN, The Travel Channel, and he even appeared at George W. Bush’s Presidential inaugural banquet. Ammar has been described as the world’s “go-to-source” for magic instruction.

Then there is Chapmanville’s Danny Godby. Danny, a Logan County Commissioner since about 1989, was named Logan County’s “Man of the Year” back in 1994. That, however, pales by comparison when one looks at what the highly motivated Christian has accomplished in proudly representing Logan County. A three-sport player all-star at Chapmanville and a walk-on baseball player at Bowling Green University, where in 1968 he was an honorable mention to the All-American team, Godby was overlooked in the major league baseball draft. However, he later signed as a free agent with the Cincinnati Reds, and taught and coached at Chapmanville during off-seasons.

During his tenure with the Reds, Godby, an outfielder, spent spring training with the likes of former Reds Pete Rose, Bernie Carbo, Hal McRae and Bobby Tolan, as well as other big-name players. Godby reportedly spent hours shagging baseballs for Cincy great Peter Edward Rose, who always took extra batting practice. With no room in the Reds outfield, Godby was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1971 off-season and flourished in the minor league system there until he was called up to the majors in 1974. His first hit came as a pinch-hitter Aug. 10 of that year when he slapped a single and later scored the winning run in a 13-inning Cardinals win against San Diego. During his playing days, Godby got to know such greats as Bob Gibson, Tim McCarver, Sparky Anderson, Lou Brock, and numerous other major league standouts. Danny ended his professional career after 10 seasons in 1977.

Now retired from teaching and coaching at Chapmanville, Godby, previously retired from there, but came back to help Logan High School basketball during the early ‘80’s after turbulent times occurred following Logan great Willie Akers’ retirement. After getting the LHS program back on track with two state tournament appearances, Godby returned to his alma mater in 1991, coaching basketball and baseball. He spent over 40 years in the educational system of Logan County.

One cannot overlook Godby’s longtime friend and fellow Logan County Commissioner, Willie Akers, who has certainly left his mark on Logan County. Though Akers is not a native born Logan Countian, he has lived most of his life here where he has more than earned the respect and honors bestowed upon him, including his 2002 induction into the WVU Hall of Fame. Akers, along with teammate, friend, and former NBA great Jerry West, led the Mountaineers to the 1959 NCAA basketball finals in which the talented squad lost a 71-70 heartbreaker to California.

Willie played two professional seasons with the ABA’s Cleveland Pipers, but it is his efforts at Logan High that stands out with the locals, who once packed the fieldhouse that now bears his name. The fist-in-hand coach ended an illustrious career with a 402-116 win-loss record, which included four Class AAA championships. He also served 10 years as assistant superintendent of Logan County Schools. Both he and Godby continue today as Logan County Commissioners.

There are many other Logan Countians who have made us proud over the years; not the least of whom are our current Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, and my own father, Carlos Williamson for his WWII efforts.

Of course, what the county can also boast about is its connection to one of the world’s greatest heavyweight fighters, William Harrison “Jack” Dempsey. Jack, whose mother hails from Mud Fork, was born in Colorado in 1895, but was raised on a large farm that later became the community of Holden. As a young man he set pins at the local bowling alley and worked at Gay Coal Company. Dempsey, who was champion from 1919 until 1926, had a career record of 83-6, with 51 wins by knockouts. Legendary Logan Sheriff Don Chafin, who became friends with the champ when Jack was in Logan, traveled to many of his fights, and sometimes served as his bodyguard. Chafin, who loved to gamble, reportedly won a great deal of money by betting on Dempsey.

So, in a time when negativity seems to surround the coal fields, its leaders, and its people, perhaps we all should simply take in a deep breath of our good ole’ Logan County air, and say, rather boisterously: “I sure am proud of my county and its people. We’ve accomplished more than most people know.”

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

*Published with permission.

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1960 Logan East Junior High School

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Photos courtesy of Bob Piros. Any help identifying the students and teachers in these photos will be appreciated. If you can identify someone or yourself, please convey the roll number and student number in that row. 1960 Logan East Junior … Continue reading

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Cherry Tree Reunions

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Cherry Tree Reunions Gallery

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The little town at the mouth of Buffalo Creek

By Dwight Williamson

Dwight WilliamsonMan, W.Va., was incorporated in 1918. The formal boundaries for the Town of Man encompass a land area of 1.1 sq. miles and a water area of 0.05 sq. miles. The elevation is 738 feet.

February 26th marked the anniversary of the Buffalo Creek disaster that took place in 1972. For those of us who were around back then, it was an almost unbelievable time of regret. Blackened waters, the result of a broken coal slurry pond following heavy rain at the head of Buffalo Creek, wiped out 16 communities, took the lives of 125 people, injured 1,121 others and left at least 4,000 homeless. The national news descended upon the Man area community. How interesting it is that the dam was inspected just four days earlier by a federal mine inspector, who declared the site to be “satisfactory.”

As a sophomore at Marshall University that fateful day, I recall my mother telephoning me (pay phone in the hallway) at the South Hall dormitory where I lived to give me the horrific news. But it was not until I saw the television news that I realized the full severity of this catastrophic and now historical event. At the time, about the only thing I knew about Man, West Virginia, was the fact that the place produced some really good athletes and that the Man Pioneers and Hillbillies were huge rivals of both Logan and Chapmanville, and even Sharples, Holden and Omar Junior high school athletic programs. Well, with time comes knowledge, I suppose, so, I now want to share some history with you, the readers.

First, let me assure you that I feel fairly certain there is nowhere else in the good ‘ole U.S.A. where a community exists with the name of “Man.” Of course, I also would be willing to be bet there is no place in the country called “Woman.” But that’s another story. So, let’s just pretend to be tuned into a version of the History or Discovery Channel and title this reading as— “The History of Man.”

The town has long been reported to have derived its name from the last syllable of the last name of Ulysses Hinchman, who according to founder of The Logan Banner and historian, Henry Clay Ragland, obtained about 2,000 acres between the years of 1840 and 1848, which included property at Madison Creek, Sandlick, Rich Creek, Laurel Fork and other places, mostly along the Guyandotte River. As a member of one of the early families of Logan County, Hinchman was also one of the early doctors of the area and was the county’s census taker. In addition, Ragland wrote that he also served as superintendent of schools, pastor, trader, and he also represented Logan County in the legislature from 1840 until 1858.

In an interview with Laura Hinchman, a descendant of Ulysses, local historian, Bob Spence, reported that “They were even going to call the place Hinchman… but they thought the name was too long. So they just called it Man.” It should be noted that Mr. Hinchman’s wife was Rebecca McDonald, as in McDonald Land Company, which still lays claims to much of the Triadelphia area. So, it would seem logical that the Guyandotte River town received its name from Ulysses Hinchman. However, a Logan Banner newspaper story from 1924 indicates otherwise. Here’s what I’ve found out about the little town located at the mouth of Buffalo Creek.

The 1924 headline reads: “Man, Fastest Growing Town in Logan County—History of How It was Named”. The story reads as follows:

“It is a center of a population of 10,000, and it has everything it takes to make a city, even to a Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce is big stuff, it is the latest development of a town that does nothing else but develops, so the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. It’s about the new commerce body that we shall first speak.” The story proceeded to say that an organizational meeting had been held in the Burgess Theatre building and the result was a “full grown thriving business body, with F.M. Burgess named President; George Barrick, president of the Man mining Company, vice-president; W.W. Goodwin, secretary, and J.L. Jones, proprietor of the Man Drug Company, treasurer.” The Banner reported that at the initial meeting the men laid out an outline for the town—“a city paving program, the boosting of good roads, keeping the city clean, and the fostering of all beneficial movements.”

The article said the “city” of Man had only one church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South, but added that plans for the building of another church, yet, another Methodist Episcopal Church. The report said, “The new church will be built sometime this summer” (1926). “A new modern bank building will be built by the Merchants and Miners bank within the next year.” The story said the local banking institution had been established for two years and “was among the best of the small banks doing business in the Guyan Valley.” The bank, however, did not survive the Great Depression that crippled the nation just a few years later, starting in 1929.

Among the mines operating in the vicinity of Man at the time were Mallory Coal Company, Standard Island Creek Coal Company, Bengall Coal Company and the Man Mining Company.

When the railroad finally reached the Man area connecting it to Logan in about 1920 was when the community realized its growth potential, and by 1926, The Banner was reporting that the then County Court had agreed to the construction of a road between what was then the community of Wilburn and Rum Junction, which when completed, would finally connect Logan and Man with a real road. The story further read: “And with the completion of the road between Charleston and Logan this year, the city will have a hard road connection with the capital city.” The article also reported that the town’s streets were to finally be paved this same year.

South Man, one of the nicest communities in the county even today, was just beginning. Described “as the latest addition to the town,” it was depicted as being “a level stretch of land along the Guyan River which has been prepared for a residential district.” The story relayed that “a number of beautiful residences have been built in the section during the past year, and many others are being planned for the future.”

The history of Man isn’t as ancient history by any means, but its name has been described as the “first provoking feature of the little city.” The Banner’s story reported, “The name is unique by its very simplicity, and how it got tagged so is the result of a blunder on the part of the government’s official post office namer. Perhaps it was a bold stroke promoted by inspiration. Anyway, this is how it came about:

A few years ago the matter of naming the clump of houses, store and mine fell to the namer’s lot of task. He was told that the place was located at the junction of Buffalo Creek and the Guyan River. He wished to verify the information so he took his map in hand. There was indeed a spot at the point designated.

Nothing phases a man who has named some of the places in this county and the patient, uninspired plodder, we presume, thought of his thankless labor, the moil, toil and tediousness of it, his thoughts turned inward and he stuck his pen deep into the ink and scratched out the name Man.

So, it is not in the anticipation of a full grown city that the man gave the dot on the map the name of Man, his actions being nothing more than the result of following the course of least resistance,” according to the Banner story, adding that “It was a good stroke and the people of the little city are proud of the name, because of its very significance.”

The town of Man’s population in the latest census was 759 in 2010, which included 36.3 percent of those residents under the age of 18 as living below the poverty line. Like most of southern West Virginia, the Triadelphia area has been hit hard by the lack of coal mining, but unlike some places, it still enjoys an influx of tourism business generated by visiting Hatfield and McCoy trail riders. It is hoped that when the new road from Man to Logan is completed more opportunities for the area will arise.

Readers should know that the town of Wilbur mentioned earlier in this story is no longer even on the map. However, for historical purposes, it should be realized that the coal camp community was located on the property that is now the site of Walker Machinery. It should also be noted that in 1926 the district high school in the community had an enrollment of only 125 pupils, but the school was defined as a “first class institution.”

Another interesting factor from that time period is that the Man community consisted of Taplin, Mallory, Landville, Bengall, and Kistler. It would seem that other Triadelphia areas had not yet been developed by the various coal companies that would follow.

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

*Published with permission.

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Cherry Tree Grade School

“If my source is right, the Cherry Tree School was built about the time of the First World War (1917). One of the carpenters was Mr. L. E. (Ed) Steele. He was the father of Edna Steele who was married to Doc Erwin Hall (Hall’s Drug Store).” — Eddie Atkins

My mother, Virginia Taylor, attended the Yuma School and the two schools used to have spelling bees against each other. When she was in the third or fourth grade she could spell down the much older kids.

Cherry Tree Grade School

Cherry Tree Grade School

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Attending first grade at J. B. Ellis got me off to a rather rocky start as the teacher’s kid (more about that later).  My education was off to a smoother ride as I entered second grade at Cherry Tree Grade with Sally Gore as my teacher in 1947.  Each morning there would be a slight delay as I waited for Gene & Ethel Mae Coffey.  Mrs. Coffee would be braiding Ethel Mae’s hair into pig tails. The three of us would then head out to school. Our reader in second grade was “Jim & Judy Rides,” I believe, and we loved to hear Miss Gore read us stories like “Little Billy Goat Gruff.

Our Principal was Lucille Von Pechy. She taught the 3rd & 4th grade. Mrs. Von Pechy wore a smock (pink, as I recollect) with convenient pockets to place her hands while talking to us or to retrieve her whistle.  Her whistle was used to announce the end of recess.  At the bottom of the tall classroom windows, she had installed little curtains to prevent us from daydreaming and being distracted from out books. Wow, Lucille! Wasn’t that a little over handed?  Mrs. Von Pechy would help shape our lives forever.

Mrs. Von Pechy was quite the” handyman.” One day she asked if anyone who was going home for lunch could bring her back a plane to smooth the rough edges of her desk   she was snagging her hose most every day. I proudly volunteered and promptly brought back my Dad’s plane when I returned from lunch. Embarking on her little project, she exclaimed:  “This thing wouldn’t cut hot butter!” Almost immediately she cut her finger on the plane. It wasn’t funny at the time.

Lucile von Pechy

Mrs. Von Pechy disciplined us to line up in front of the school to pledge allegiance.  I can still see her playing the old upright piano as we sang “Ten Little Tadpoles swimming in and Out.”  My mind jumps back to the installation of the gas heater which replaced the pot bellied coal burning stove as well as the building of book shelves under the classroom windows. These activities took place during our school day. Then there was the day a hush feels over the room when someone came to get Beulah Samson due to the death of her mother.  We were all saddened that our classmate had lost her mother.  Beulah and I have been close friends since second grade and are still in close contact and we often reminisce about the days at Cherry Tree Grade School and how it shaped our lives.

Death would affect our lives again that when Charles Tiller died expectantly from infected tonsils.  Mrs. Von Pechy asked for volunteers to act as flower bearers at his funeral at the Pilgrim Holiness Church and I was among the volunteers.  Riding in the open pickup truck to the cemetery, I couldn’t help but think back about the little skiff the year before when I had chased Charles home and threw a rock at him.  The rock went through the front window of the Tiller home. That was followed by my delivery of a new window pane and apology at the direction of my father.  Of course we were on good terms at the time of his death, but that childish act was to haunt me for a long time.

During recess with games of hop scotch, volleyball, “skin a cat,” the monkey bars, etc., friendly C & O engineers waved to us and we thrilled to the occasional toot of their locomotive whistle. The sight of the intimidating, rugged looking Posey Griffith, truant officer, was enough to scare the dickens out of all of us when he would make his rounds to check on the attendance of students such as Dickie Bill Hood or Thomas Ripley.  This also brings back memories of smelly tennis shoes worn by a couple of our more deprived peers. Although many of us were poor without being aware of that fact, tennis shoes were just not a part of the normal school apparel in that day.

Miss Sterling visited weekly (in the afternoon, immediately after recess) for a flannel graph Bible story. In addition to Baby Ruth, Snickers, 3 Musketeers, Payday and Zagnut bars, there were the popular candy cigarettes, candy lips and candy mustaches as well as wax flutes which we purchased at the door of the 1st & 2nd grade cloak room in Miss Sally Gores’ room. The money would eventually go for new playground equipment.

Frema Dingess, Principal  1950-1956

From a  telephone conversation that Bob Piros had with Frema Dingess in February of 2012.

She started out teaching in 1939 at Ethel @ 18 and retired in 1974. She worked 6 years at CT school. She thought it might have been torn down in 1956.

She went to Marshall then to WVU where she received her teaching degree.

She recalls a Cathy Robinson who lived next door to CT school who took in children & helped them.

She remembers me & my cousin Bob, Mike Ratz, the Nagy boys(one of her nieces is married to one of them). Doris Nagy is who she had to contact to get the job at CT school.

She recalled where we lived in the brick house, my parents.

She said that Billy Earlywine also live in Chapmanville and has a kitchen cabinet business.

– Bob Piros

Memories of Frema Dingess as told to Bob Piros by Margaret (Buckles) Craggs

Frema  Dingess was a dear woman.  I adored her and my parents were influenced to name my sister , born when I was in first grade, “Frema”.  She became a good family friend.  We moved to Cleveland, Ohio July of 1954

Mrs. Dingess visited us while she was in town one summer.  As I recall, she was probably in her mid 40’s at the time.  However, to a little girl, everyone over 20 was “old” .

I do not remember her being principal.  My only memories are of Ms. Dingess teaching 1st grade and Ms. Von Pechy teaching 2nd and 3rd grades and being principal.

We  lived in White’s Addition but I am not the girl whose party you attended.  Immediately across the bridge was a street and a big white house on the corner of that street.  The Whites lived in that big house (big compared to our house anyway).  We lived in an alley-way just to the left of that big white house in a rental owned by the Whites.  I wonder if they had anything  to do with the naming of the community?

I do remember the store you are talking about…I seem to recall it was owned by a family called “Davis”.  The woman who worked there was named, I believe, “Velma”.

I was probably one of the girls who won the spelling bee – nothing I can recall specifically, but I was always at the ‘head of the line’.  I couldn’t understand how people could not spell a word – it was always easy to me (Today I can’t spell with a darn – spell check on the computer has ruined me).

I can remember the school very well and Ms. Dingess.  I can’t recall exactly what Ms. Von Pechy looked like other than she was older, heavier and stricter.  I lived in fear of her  paddle but fortunately, never received that punishment.  Seems  as though only the boys got paddled.

I remember walking to school and passing by the house just before the school with the crazy roosters.  They would fly out and bite our legs and scare us to death.  We weren’t allowed to cross the road to get away from them – of course, we would never have disobeyed our parents.

Unfortunately, I cannot remember you.  My mom would have remembered your family for sure, but she has long ago passed away.  Where did you live?

Two years ago my sister and I drove back to WV and visited the old neighborhood.  I hardly recognized it.  Many of the homes I remember were gone.  I was surprised that the road, the bridge and railroad were just as I remembered though.  There wasn’t anyone living there that I remembered.

We moved to Cleveland in summer of 1954 and I married and raised my two sons in a nearby suburb of Cleveland.  You  are in CA?

It was very nice to hear from you and recall those happy days.  Please let me know if I can try to answer any other questions or give any info for the memory project.

Margaret (Buckles) Craggs

You can help preserve a bit of the memories of the Cherry Tree Grade School by sharing your photos and memories with us. To share a photo, please email it to the admin at loganwv.us@gmail.com.

You may also like: Mt. Gay Elementary School

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